CEOs Enjoy 364 to One Earnings Advantage over Workers

August 31, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - A typical chief executive officer of a top U.S. firm earns more in day than the average U.S. employee makes throughout the year, a new study has found.

Released by the Institute for Policy Studies and a second group called United for a Fair Economy, the research found that the income of a top CEO is about 364 times that of their average worker counterparts.

U.S. CEOs’ income also far outstrip those of government leaders, nonprofit executives and even their European counterparts, according to the report that comes as executive pay continues to be a hot button issue, according to an English IPS News report.

According to the research, CEOs of the 500 largest U.S. companies earned an average of $10.8 million in total compensation in 2006, and the CEOs of the 20 largest companies earned an average of $36.4 million. In comparison, the average worker in the U.S. earned $29,544 within the same time period.

The $36.4 million earned by the top 20 U.S. CEOs also far exceeded the average earnings of the 20 highest-paid European CEOs ($12.5 million), U.S. nonprofit leaders ($965,698), members of the U.S. executive branch of government ($198,369) and generals in the U.S. military ($178,542).

But being the CEO of a large company is not the most lucrative job in United States, the study found. That honor went to the managers of the country’s top hedge funds, the study found. The average annual income of the 20 top-earning hedge fund and private equity managers was $655.5 million in 2006, the study found. Four such managers earned more than $1 billion in the last year alone.

This year’s 364-to-1 CEO-to-worker pay gap remains a massive increase from previous decades: in 1990, the rate was 107-to-1, and in 1980, it was only 40-1, according to the study.

The increased scrutiny of CEO pay has not been limited to the U.S., according to the news story: European leaders have also focused on the issue, even though the earnings of European CEOs are relatively small compared to their U.S. counterparts.

For example, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is known as a relative fiscal conservative, has pledged to pass a law limiting the severance packages of top executives.

The study report is here .